The Power of Platform Extensibility: Accelerating Ideas into Revenue

July 24, 2020
Posted on: July 24th, 2020 by Brad Sawaya No Comments
platform extensibility

Buyer behaviors are changing at historically high rates while markets and economies are more unpredictable than anyone can remember. As a result, most companies are scrambling for innovative ways to offer products and services to meet the new standards of buyer needs. Sales teams are solving these challenges with a wide array of creative pricing, promotion, and bundling strategies. Product teams are introducing new offerings or changing existing ones. Leadership is pushing for a more stable recurring revenue stream. All this is taking place while finance teams are left trying to figure out how to operationalize the changes, or risk inhibiting success. The challenge for finance teams comes from the fact that instead of embracing platform extensibility, many enterprises rely on rigid, legacy systems, or worse, a patchwork of systems assembled over time from acquisitions, combining business units or a variety of offerings. In other cases, organizations may have implemented cloud-based subscription billing software only to find that the breadth of capabilities and adaptability cannot keep pace with the realities of current market demands.

The Evolution of Subscription Services

There was a time when subscription options were limited. Software-as-a-Service buyers could only subscribe to an “out of the box solution” with either single or multiple seats in the application. These subscriptions were like light switches, so you could easily turn the service on or off. However as more and more products and services are available as a subscription, buyers are demanding flexibility when it comes to pricing and payment options. So today, rather than the simple On/Off switch, subscriptions now have a dimmer. Buyers can add select features to their basic service, such as advanced reporting, additional storage space, or a one-time purchase of credits.

For the businesses selling subscriptions, pricing, packaging, and business models (as-a-service, subscription, usage-based, etc.), the ability to meet the growing demand for those options has become a critical competitive differentiator. The flexibility consumers demand in B2C models, is becoming the norm for B2B models as well.

To deliver all these options to the market quickly and effectively, finance teams need a strong technical foundation with built-in scalability, security, compliance, flexibility, and adaptability, also known as “Platform Extensibility.”

So, What is Platform Extensibility and How Will it Support My Revenue Initiatives?

At its core, platform extensibility means that new functionality can be added without modifying the original code. Business users can add to base functionality, continuously scaling and extending new capabilities and outputs to support product launches, price changes, promotions, or new business models, without developing expensive custom code. The true power of an extensible platform comes from this ability to adapt and scale as your business changes and grows.

This extensible platform approach is in direct contrast to a traditional software application model, which is typically employed for linear, single-use applications. Think of traditional software like a factory assembly line. It efficiently mass produces a single pre-defined product, like an SUV. But making any change to the assembly process is difficult and often impossible.

What happens when market needs change and drivers no longer want large vehicles and instead want more affordable, electric cars? Each machine on the factory’s assembly line has been programmed and built to manufacture SUVs. To meet customer demand, the assembly line must be scrapped to make room for an entirely new one.

With traditional software, responding to constantly shifting expectations is time-consuming and expensive. By comparison, platform extensibility allows you to simply reconfigure or connect to new applications to meet specific business goals and requirements.

Sticking with the car metaphor, a manufacturing platform would connect other, updated systems without rebuilding the entire factory floor to create new models. The base code for manufacturing stays, but the business extends manufacturing to adapt to new engine and body designs.

With platform extensibility, if you can conceive it, you can create it and launch it while automating business processes, reducing errors, saving time, and most importantly – increasing customer satisfaction. This “platform extensibility” is what accelerates your ideas into revenue.

The Recipe for True Platform Extensibility and Billing Control

Many billing engines claim to be built on a platform and promote extensibility. However, to achieve the promise of business agility and scalability, there are key platform capabilities the solution must deliver to enable true pricing and billing innovation.

  • Business Process Automation to deliver the optimal customer experience
  • Configurability designed to enable business users rather than developers
  • Open Connectivity and Integration that enables seamless end to end processes
  • Extensible Data Model to streamline critical components for maximum agility

These elements allow the platform to be extended to support any business need without changing the original software.

Cut Time and Errors with Automated Business Processes

A truly extensible billing platform offers the ability to create workflows to support complete business process automation, essential for effective recurring revenue and subscription management. These capabilities should be built into the platform, rather than offered as costly add-ons or custom development services.

Business process automation unlocks a new level of business agility and efficiency without the headache of long development cycles or custom coding, allowing automated workflows to perform critical, cross-functional tasks.

Examples of business process automation:

  • Send automated customer notifications for billing or payment issues, with direct access to account, payment, and usage information in a customer portal
  • Reduce manual reporting errors by extending data models to dashboards and downstream finance applications
  • Implement rate changes automatically across thousands of accounts

With the right workflows in place, any business can increase efficiencies and dramatically improve labor costs.

Configure Your Systems to Drive Your Unique Business

Many companies offer the promise of extensibility, but when it comes time to customize, these solutions require experienced software developers and costly service agreements to make the necessary changes which can take months or even a year to update and implement.

A true platform enables the business user and greatly reduces dependency on custom development, which can be accomplished with configuration on a platform. Users can simply point and click to create new fields and embed them in any required process while still maintaining a strong control environment.

For example, media and entertainment businesses require custom billing calendars. These companies define the last Sunday of the month as their end-of-month close. With an extensible data model, a new calendar can be configured in minutes and applied to every connected data element.

Immediately Gain Insights Driven Through Each Critical Step

In any environment, subscription billing solutions must connect multiple external systems. The open connectivity provided by an extensible platform helps businesses integrate billing information with mission-critical systems like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and Salesforce.

These connections should allow two-way data flow delivering critical business intelligence and enabling every connected user to make accurate, informed decisions. In addition to complete data transparency, platforms also easily connect with any available product information.

Extensible Data Model, Billing and Mediation Joined at the Hip

A data model lies at the core of every business software application and is the key to delivering true agility. Think of the data model as the blueprint for a factory, defining how data elements work together to achieve the processes creating the final product. With extensible data models, end-users leverage a no-code environment to configure an unlimited number of objects, fields, and relationships, defining business rules to support any pricing and monetization model.

Operationalizing those pricing and monetization models requires that the extensible data model, billing and mediation be joined at the hip. Data mediation is the layer that consolidates raw data (often at high volumes), meters the data, and rates the data. Having the data mediation layer and billing native on one platform is required for a truly streamlined experience, connecting customer usage to billing to revenue recognition.

Use the Power of the Platform to Accelerate Ideas Into Revenue

With platform extensibility, you get a system that evolves and conforms to your way of doing business using state-of-the-art infrastructure and leverages today’s cloud ecosystem, accelerating ideas into revenue. Contact our team to learn more.

Author: Brad Sawaya
Brad Sawaya
Brad started his career with Ernst & Young in Silicon Valley, auditing many high-tech companies including Hewlett Packard. Since then, he has held leadership positions in Controllership and Finance with VMware, EMC2, and General Electric. Most recently, Brad was the Director of Business Operations for Predix.io, which is a platform developed by GE for industrial developers. Brad is a CPA and has extensive experience helping Software as a Service companies scale and traditional companies undergo digital transformations.
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